Here at the mid-point of chapter 6 in Paul’s letter to the church in Ephesus, Paul begins shifting toward the closing remarks of his epistle. After many rich pages of doctrine, warning, exhortation, and instruction, he now moves to encouragement and reassurance.
Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Eph 6:10-12
As we touched on earlier in this study of Ephesians, the believers in Ephesus were surrounded by rampant and perverse idol worship. It enveloped the entire culture of Ephesus at the penning of this letter and for many years that followed. The influence of such an idolatrous society on any Christian in that area would have been incredibly powerful, and the temptation to go-along to get-along must have been intense.
Aware of this, Paul told believers to “be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might.” As every mature Christian knows, our spiritual strength is derived solely from the Lord’s power. While we can put on a good show for others, we have no truly instinctive will to resist sin and temptation apart from the Holy Spirit. We must be strong in the Lord and trust in His infinite strength and might if we hope to stand firm in the faith.
One reason I love the Apostle Paul is that he doesn’t just say something and walk away. He follows up this appeal to be strong with a very practical how-to: “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.”
We’ll dive deeper into the ‘pieces’ of the armor of God in the coming weeks, but here Paul lays the foundation for what he’s about to teach believers with a rather simple overview of the lesson. Put on the armor of God so we can stand firm, because “our struggle is not against flesh and blood.”
This is a very important fact for each of us to remember. When bad things happen, it is easy to blame people or even the Lord. And while there are bad people, and yes, God is totally sovereign and nothing is outside His control, our struggle and battle is not against people and certainly not against the Lord. It’s not even against governors or presidents or world leaders. It is “against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.”
Spiritual warfare is real. We see evidence of this throughout Scripture from Genesis 3 all the way through Revelation. At some point in history, Satan fell from grace and rallied some of the angels in heaven to follow him in sin. While the Bible does not give us many details on this event, it tells us that Satan is a deceiver, liar, and an enemy of our souls, and will eventually be defeated and cast into an eternal lake of fire. For more on this topic, see Isaiah 14:12-15, 1 Chron 21:1, John 8:44, Luke 10:18, 2 Peter 2:4, Rev 12, and Rev 20:10.
We must remember that spiritual battles are only won by standing strong in the Lord, and we do that through a mindset of prayer, study of Scripture, and remaining vigilant against deception. It takes a lot of practice, but looking at the world through a spiritual lens helps prevent being sucked into the chaos and confusion that many lost souls suffer through each day. We benefit greatly from understanding that there is a very real yet unseen enemy who lies in wait to attack the weak. The Apostle Peter reminded his readers of this when he said, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. But resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same experiences of suffering are being accomplished by your brethren who are in the world,” (1 Peter 5:8).
Remaining on-guard and committing everyday events and occurrences to prayer helps keep our mind’s eye focused on what truly matters: bringing glory to God, deepening our walk with Him, and showing the love of Christ to those around us. Continually striving toward these things helps keep us firmly rooted and strong in the Lord.